January 13, 2021
By Allison Martell and Moira Warburton
TORONTO (Reuters) – Ontario has vaccinated only a small proportion of long-term care and retirement home residents, the group most vulnerable to COVID-19, while delivering tens of thousands of doses to healthcare workers outside of the homes, new provincial data released on Wednesday showed.
In care homes, vaccination is a matter of life or death. But less than a quarter of Ontario’s at least 138,000 long-term care and retirement home residents have received a dose, based on data from industry associations. Many doses – some 77,000 – have gone to healthcare workers outside of the homes.
Nearly 40% of the province’s long-term care homes are battling outbreaks, and 198 residents and two staff have died since Jan. 1. Under worst-case projections, another 1,520 residents could die by Feb. 14, experts advising the province said on Tuesday.
Canada began vaccinations on Dec. 13, and federal guidance was to focus on long-term care residents and staff, other front-line healthcare workers, and some remote indigenous communities, to maximize lives saved. The federal government had distributed 548,950 doses across the country as of Jan. 7.
Ontario is aiming to finish delivering a first dose to residents, staff and essential caregivers at long-term care homes and high-risk retirement homes by Feb. 15, according to briefing documents.
Vaccinating residents whose mobility is limited, and who are scattered across hundreds of homes, is more difficult than reaching nursing home staff and other eligible healthcare workers.
Overall, Ontario has administered 144,000 vaccine doses as of Tuesday, including 13,000 long-term care and retirement home residents and 45,000 staff who work in those homes. An additional 20,000 doses of Moderna Inc’s vaccine have gone to a combination of residents, staff and essential caregivers in long-term care and retirement homes.
Quebec, Canada’s hardest hit province, has vaccinated just over half of its long-term care residents, it said on Monday.
In December, Quebec asked Pfizer Inc to deliver its first doses directly to large long-term care homes, while Ontario initially planned to rely on shots from Moderna, whose vaccine was approved and delivered later. Healthcare workers are now moving Pfizer doses into care homes in Ontario as well.
(Reporting by Allison Martell and Moira Warburton in Toronto; Additional reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal; Editing by Matthew Lewis)